The Conversion of Ratisbonne
The Conversion of Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne
The most famous as well as dramatic account of a Miracle attributed to Our Lady’s intercession through the Miraculous Medal is that of Alphonse Ratisbonne.
He was an Austrian Jew, very well off in material possessions, a man of the world.
He harbored a great hatred for Catholics, and all things pertaining to the Catholic Church.
This was due in part to the conversion of his older brother, George, to Catholicism.
To make matters worse, he also became a priest. Alphonse never forgave his older brother, but blamed the Church for bewitching the man.
In retrospect, it becomes so obvious that the bizarre incidents leading up to the dramatic instance of Ratisbonne’s conversion could not possibly have been coincidence.
A Master plan was launched to bring this angry man to the bosom of Mary, from which he would never leave.
Prior to his upcoming marriage to a Jewish girl in Austria, Ratisbonne thought it would be nice to travel to Malta.
Needless to say, he never arrived there. A succession of mishaps brought him to a city he vowed he would never visit, the center of Christianity, Rome. While in the ancient city, he did another thing which was completely out of character for him. He made the acquaintance of a newly converted Catholic, Baron Bussieres.
During a raging argument with Bussieres, in which Ratisbonne spewed his hate for the Catholic Church, Bussiere was able to get the Jew to wear the new medal to Mary from Paris, as a dare.
He was even able to convince Alphonse to write down the words to the MEMORARE, and repeat the prayer.
Ratisbonne accepted the challenge with outright mockery. He allowed the Baron’s daughter to put the medal around his neck.
Our Lady then put a dying man, Comte de la Ferronays, in the path of Bussiere. They met at a dinner party in Rome.
Baron Bussiere discussed Ratisbonne with the Comte, who promised to pray the Memorare for him at the Church of St. Mary Major.
The Comte de la Ferronays went to the Church, and prayed twenty Memorares for the conversion of the angry Jew.
After having prayed, he returned home, and died the same day.
Ratisbonne wanted to leave Rome.
He went to Baron Bussiere’s home to thank him for his courtesy, which was his custom, and to return the medal to him.
Bussiere, not wanting to lose Alphonse, asked him to accompany him to the Church of St. Andrea’s, where Bussiere was to make funeral arrangements for Comte de la Ferronays.
The fact that the Comte had prayed for Ratisbonne made him feel obligated to join his friend.
While Baron Bussiere made arrangements in the sacristy, Ratisbonne wandered about inside the church.
He had a feeling he should leave. As he turned towards the front door, a huge black dog blocked his way.
The animal was vicious, baring his fangs.
Ratisbonne was frozen in his tracks. He couldn’t move.
Suddenly the dog disappeared.
Directly in his path, at a side chapel, a brilliant light glowed.
Ratisbonne looked up to see Mary standing there, above the altar, in the pose of the Miraculous Medal, which he still wore around his neck.
He looked up at her. Her face was peaceful, but her eyes bore deep into his soul. He could not stand the brilliance of the light. He had to look away from her enchanting face, her captivating eyes.
He looked at her hands, which, according to his own words, “expressed all the secrets of the Divine Pity”. She never said a word, but he “understood all”.
The vision lasted but a few minutes; the effects a lifetime.
When his friend emerged from the sacristy, he found Ratisbonne on his knees, sobbing. He insisted on being baptized immediately.
The story spread all over Rome.
In a matter of months, Alphonse Ratisbonne was baptized, received First Holy Communion, and was Confirmed.
He went on to become a priest, taking the name Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne.
He joined his brother in Jerusalem to form the Daughters of Zion, whose ministry was to evangelize among the Jews.
He tried to meet Catherine Laboure who had been given the vision of the Miraculous Medal, but without success.
Catherine’s gift was hers, and Ratisbonne’s experience was his own to cherish for the rest of his life.
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